saints and sinners of the stage and screen
saints and sinners of the stage and screen
Hey Hey 16K
Camden Comedy Club
28th August 2015
Photography provided by The Camden Fringe
Another day, another comedy duo, and lo and behold, a guitar. A mid-40s man (MJ Hibbett) and his slightly more timorous (also mid-40s) side-kick Steve Hewitt. These two well-travelled geeky dad-joke musicians are here to tell us all about a song from 15 years ago that Hibbett wrote and which the internet made famous. Hey Hey 16K, which gives this comedy show its title, was a home-spun nostalgic accolade to the 'good old days' at the far left of the trend in computer distribution during the digital revolution.
Of the two, Hibbett is clearly the leader, dominating the stage and audience, while Hewitt almost seems like he's been bullied into this gig to help out his mate by giving him someone to talk to. Hewitt sort of has lines, and he sets up several of the gags for Hibbett to knock down. Hewitt's singing voice is also much weaker, relying often on Hibbett's for volume and to find a note (and the right lyric once or twice). The only instrumentation is from Hibbett's guitar, which is proficient, but not massively impressive. I'm not the music buff I wish I was, but to me it did feel like quite a few of the songs sounded slightly samey.
The act relies on a carefully tuned self-deprecation of the central characters, who start out playing themselves. The growing trend in geeky-comedy (see Full of Win from last year's Camden Fringe and It's All Geek To Me from the year before) seems to revolve around the assumption that being abnormal or unpopular at school should extrapolate to later life. This is a chip on the shoulder of several nerds which is perhaps why they try to become mainstream by breaking into comedy from the angle of continuing the teasing of their geeky selves. This is challenged in a seemingly accidental way when the narrative - seemingly for no reason at all - goes back 30 years in time to Hibbett's youth (Hewitt bungs on a wig and suddenly is a pubescent scruffy kid from the mid-80s).
Here is where some audiences (I'm looking at you, under 35s) may start finding some of this content dated. To specifically write a song about things they don't publicise now, especially people's names, is to write a song that is at best boring and at worst confusing and annoying for a lot of people. The reaction of a lot of the crowd told me that these songs were funny enough, and some things are always going to be too obscure to write about, but cruising that line is going to lose you laughs. Audience interaction was good though - we felt that we were appreciated and, quite rightly, of far superior quality to the EdFringe audiences this act had endured recently.
From the perspective of his older self, we get a somewhat "it's a wonderful life" chance to see what would happen if Hibbett had managed to achieve normal, and of course it's a gloomy picture, full of ties and boring beer. There are several random songs that seem to have a two-line premise and suddenly, surreally, we get a love-song to Ada Lovelace (the woman who invented software) and another on how to choose a good beer. I got the impression that these songs had already been written and were shoehorned into the show to take up space.
On the plus side, I never felt disengaged: the energy on stage was enough to keep me occupied. Top highlight was definitely the dad jokes. I know these are often subjected to hatred, but I genuinely find them funny, and this pair demonstrated a real gift for it, allowing us to laugh as much at the idea of dad jokes as at the actual puns. Individual songs probably don't have much merit by themselves, but the momentum behind them means the quality of the rhymes or music aren't that important. Hibbitt and Hewitt are enthusiastic, energetic entertainers who can beat out a reasonable tune. It's not quite at fibre optic standards, but Hey Hey 16K is fast enough and funny enough to warrant spending time with this likeable duo.
Hey Hey 16K opened on 28th August and runs until 29th August 2015 at the Camden Comedy Club, as part of the Camden Fringe.
Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)